CONCERNS ABOUT STRAY VOLTAGE – LET US KNOW
As a member of Lyon-Lincoln Electric Cooperative, you should feel free to call us anytime with concerns related to your electrical service. One area that can be a concern, particularly for livestock farmers, is stray voltage.
Your cooperative’s electrical distribution system must be grounded to earth to ensure continuous safety and reliability, as required in applicable electrical codes. The presence of some level of stray voltage is a normal, inherent and unavoidable result of electricity traveling through a grounded utilities’ distribution system. However, a livestock farmer may become concerned their animals are experiencing a level of stray voltage exceeding acceptable levels and possibly impacting animal behavior.
While we have long worked with our members to address this issue, we worked with a broad group of stakeholders across Minnesota to agree on a common approach to analyzing and reacting to stray voltage concerns. This collaborative effort resulted in the development of the Minnesota Stray Voltage Guide. Minnesota’s rural electric cooperatives led the effort by working with all of the utilities in the state, agriculture groups and representatives from the state of Minnesota on this topic.
DOWNLOAD THE MINNESOTA STRAY VOLTAGE GUIDE
The Minnesota Stray Voltage Guide outlines the steps farmers, licensed electrical contractors and utilities can take to discover and resolve stray voltage concerns on livestock farms. The guide includes a list of common causes and a farm wiring checklist to assist farmers and electrical contractors in visually inspecting farm electrical systems and noting potential stray voltage sources. Additionally, the guide goes through what the farmer and utility should expect when a stray voltage investigation is conducted, including the proper testing procedures.
Contact Lyon-Lincoln Electric during business hours at (800) 927-6276 to discuss any stray voltage concerns you may have and, if interested, schedule a stray voltage investigation.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q. What is stray voltage?
A. Stray voltage is a low-level voltage (less than 10 volts) present on metal equipment that has been either grounded to the electrical system or connected to the grounded neutral conductor. Although stray voltage is present on all active distribution systems, humans usually do not notice it. Some types of livestock — especially dairy cows — are particularly sensitive to it.
Stray voltage is not EMF (electric and magnetic fields). EMF is a normal consequence of anything that uses electricity (such as a table lamp) or carries electricity (including power lines and a farm’s wiring). EMF does not cause or affect stray voltage in any way.
Stray voltage is defined as a small voltage (less than 10 volts) that can be measured between two possible contact points. If these two points are contacted by an animal, a current will flow through the animal. Depending upon the magnitude of the current the animal will respond accordingly.
Q. What are the symptoms?
A. A dairy cow affected by stray voltage may show symptoms such as:
- nervousness during milking
- reluctance to use waterers or feeders
- unexplained drops in milk production
- avoidance of metal objects
However, dairy producers should remember that these behavior changes also can occur due to problems with milking equipment, changes in milking routine, spoilage of feed or pollution of drinking water. Therefore, all potential sources for behavioral changes should be investigated.
Q. What causes stray voltage?
A. Causes can vary. Some common sources are found both on and off the farm.
- improper wiring
- poor grounding
- unbalanced 120 volt loads
- faulty equipment
- poor or corroded connections
Because of high electric use, high humidity and corrosive silage acids, urine and manure, a dairy farm is not the ideal environment for electrical wiring and equipment.
Q. What should I do if I suspect stray voltage on my farm?
A. Start the problem-solving process by taking all of the following actions:
Contact Lyon-Lincoln Electric and explain your concerns. LLEC offers stray voltage investigation at no charge. Have a licensed electrician inspect the wiring on your farm. Remember that the safety concerns related to some wiring problems are more important than the stray voltage problem. By correcting safety hazards, you may solve a large part, if not all, of your stray voltage problems. Have your milking equipment dealer check out your milking system. Contact your veterinarian to help you address any herd health concerns.